The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse: An Extraordinary Edwardian Case of Deception and Intrigue (Piu Marie Eatwell, 2015)

dead duke

Why did you choose this book?

With a title like that, why wouldn’t you choose this book?

What’s it about?

In the late 1800s, a woman came forward claiming that her son was the heir to a dukedom.  According to her, the notoriously eccentric 5th duke of Portland (who lived in tunnels underneath his family home) led a double life as TC Druce, owner of a bazaar.  She alleged that the duke faked the death of Druce when he became tired of a second persona, and that if Druce’s grave was opened, no body would be found.  She applied to the courts to open the tomb and, as a result, to prove that her son was the rightful duke, being the 5th duke’s only legitimate male child.  Was she right?

Categories

Nonfiction, history, 1800s England, legal history

Other recommended reads?

Any type of historical cold case would hit the spot, though you have to have a certain taste for the macabre to appreciate this book.

Review

I really enjoyed the first half of the book.  I was intrigued by the premise and was curious to find out whether the Druce grave really held the body.  Compelling evidence was given on both sides, though I won’t give away the conclusion.  I also liked reading about the unusual habits of the 5th duke.  This book isn’t for those who want a light read, however.  It is more legal history than anything else and you need to be prepared for chapters and chapters of details about trials, juries, judges, and testimony.  After the grave was opened, I found the rest of the book anticlimactic and was ready for it to end.  I also thought it was strange that Eatwell gave multiple postscripts to the book and left the second very open-ended.  Not a bad book but not a great one either.

Up next?

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

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